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ASA Activist Newsletter - MAY 2013
Volume 8, Issue 5
ASA Takes Cannabis Classification
Americans for Safe Access is taking its case on cannabis rescheduling to the U.S. Supreme Court. This follows an April decision by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to deny a petition for rehearing in Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, a case that challenges the DEA’s refusal to acknowledge that cannabis has currently accepted medical uses.
Illinois House Passes Medical Cannabis BillThe Illinois House last month narrowly passed a bill that would allow qualified patients to obtain cannabis from licensed dispensaries. HB1, the 'Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act,' would protect qualified medical cannabis patients from arrest and prosecution but only for four years, after which state lawmakers would have to pass new legislation.
The bill is now before the state Senate, which passed similar legislation in 2009 only to see it defeated in the House.
The bill was introduced in January by state Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), who touts the bill as one of the most restrictive in the country.
Patients with a 'debilitating medical condition' who have the approval of their physician would be able to possess up to 2.5 ounces, which they could obtain every two weeks from one of 60 'registered dispensing organizations' that would be supplied by 22 'licensed cultivation centers.'
'The Illinois House has neglected to address some of the most pressing needs facing patients today,' said Steph Sherer, ASA’s Executive Director. 'We'll do our best to improve the bill in the Senate, but even if it's enacted, advocates will have to pass a new bill in 2017.'
No personal cultivation would be permitted, and the sale of medical cannabis would be taxed at seven percent. HB1 does not allow an affirmative defense for patients if they're arrested and gives police unfettered access to patient records.
Passage of HB1 came a day after nearly 250 Illinois physicians pledged their support for safe access to medical cannabis and three physicians held a press conference calling on legislators to act.
A Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll in February found 63 percent of Illinois voters support the legalization of medical cannabis.
HB1, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act
Maryland Legislature Approves Limited BillThe Maryland Senate last month overwhelmingly approved a House of Delegates bill that extends protections for patients and creates a framework for limited distribution through research hospitals in the state. The Senate voted 42-4 in favor, despite objections from ASA and other advocates that it does little to establish safe access, and a report from the nonpartisan Maryland Department of Legislative Services that questioned the plan’s feasibility.
The idea for distributing cannabis through licensed 'Academic Medical Centers' came from Maryland Health & Mental Hygiene Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein. His support, coupled with Governor Martin O'Malley's agreement to sign the bill, saw HB1101 overwhelmingly pass both houses of the legislature.
Academic medical centers would have to apply to participate in the program and would be responsible for not only dispensing medical cannabis but also staffing the physicians who would provide recommendations. The Department of Legislative Services (DLS) noted last month that the most likely participants, Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland, have stated they will not be part of the program. DLS estimated that even if an academic medical center chose to participate, the regulatory hurdles would delay patient access until at least 2016. Their analysis also found that the program would need substantial funding—at least $400,000 next year and nearly $1 million the following, all of which would have to come from the state’s general fund.
'Patients' needs should not be pitted against the needs of other Maryland taxpayers,' said ASA Policy Director Mike Liszewski, who testified on the bill’s limitations. 'An internally financed, self-sustaining medical marijuana program would benefit patients and help the state.'
The Maryland legislature also recently passed HB180, a bill that would extend an affirmative defense to medical marijuana caregivers, which is strongly supported by ASA and other advocates.
Text of HB 1101
DLS Fiscal and Policy Analysis of HB 1101
ASA HB1101 Fact Sheet
Three Medical Cannabis Bills in Calif. LegislatureA bill to create statewide regulations for medical cannabis distribution was approved by the California Assembly's public safety committee last month. AB 473, introduced by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), would create a Division of Medical Marijuana Regulation and Enforcement that would establish statewide standards and fees for licensing medical cannabis businesses, as well as penalties for violating the standards. The new division would be part of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).
Licensed businesses and individuals would be issued identification cards to shield them from arrest and prosecution. The rights of individual patients and their primary caregivers would be unaffected by the new law, if passed.
The California Senate is meanwhile considering two bills that would affect patients—one aimed at drugged drivers and one that would better define medical cannabis distribution.
The first, SB 289, would make it a crime to drive with any detectable amount of a drug in your system if you do not have a prescription. Since federal prohibition means medical cannabis cannot be prescribed, only recommended, and cannabis is detectable for days after use, medical cannabis patients would be vulnerable to prosecution, even when they are not under the influence.
The second, SB 439, would clarify how cooperatives and collectives may legally operate in California under Proposition 215 and the 2008 Attorney General guidelines. This bill would help resolve the conflicting interpretations of current law and create the basis for more uniform access in the state.
Two Medical Cannabis Measures
On May 21, voters in the nation’s second largest city will decide on two medical cannabis initiatives that seek to regulate Los Angeles’ medical cannabis dispensaries.
California Coalition Holds Second
For the second year, California’s Coalition to Regulate Medical Marijuana (CRMM) is holding a conference in Sacramento. Hosted by ASA, the California Medical Cannabis Policy Summit and Lobby Day will take place Sunday, May 5, and Monday, May 6.
ACTION ALERT: Sign the "Peace for Patients" PetitionLet your elected representatives know it’s time to stop the war on patients! ASA’s "Peace for Patients" campaign lets you show your support for seriously ill patients who are being prosecuted for their medicine.
It’s easy. Just go to AmericansForSafeAccess.org/contactcongress.
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